Yup...seems like even here, in the villages of Cambodia, I can find a way to end up teaching a classroom full of 5 to 12 year-olds for an hour. :) How fun!
Yesterday was an activity day. I started off the morning by taking a Cambodian cooking class, which was very interesting and yummy. We went to the local market to get the ingredients. It is funny how local markets don't phase me in the slightest anymore. There was once a time when lumps of meat covered in flies (with the minimal attempt by the vendors to get them off of the meat), baskets of fruits and vegetables, people killing and chopping up fish right there in front of you, etc. had me a bit stunned. These days, I absolutely love the whole market culture. Depending on the country I am in, I recognize maybe half of all the food items that are being sold. The rest fall into one of three categories.
1-meat (or animal byproduct, such as intestines or fishpaste or insects)
3-absolute unknown substance
Luckily, the ingredients we bought fell into the first two categories. :)
So we made three Cambodian dishes, amok (very similar to a thai massaman curry) was my favorite. The other one was a lemongrass/chicken soup and finally a really spicy chicken curry. I only put two chillis in that dish, but found out quickly that two chillis is a bit much for me. Those little suckers sure do pack a punch!
Before class in the morning, I met a tuk-tuk driver who is from the countryside just on the outskirts of Battambang who has started an NGO to teach children from the countryside English. He relies heavily on tourist volunteers to come in a teach classes for an hour a day so that the kids can be exposed to many different types of English accents. So he arranged to pick Rahima, me, and Sarah (an Australian woman who took the cooking class with me) up later that afternoon and take us to the school.
No lesson plans, no idea what their level of English was, no idea on the age range, but they just gave us each a classroom of about 30 students (ranging from 5 to 25) and let us go. Rahima and Sarah both had classes that were a bit older, with some formal English and who were die-hard to continue to work out of the book they had. The class I had, in contrast, were a bunch of the cutest little kiddos ever, who had a great capacity to mimic back what I said with almost no comprehension. So, it only took a few minutes before I had them copying me, jumping up and down (lots of verbs and adjectives and emotions) saying things like, I am big (and making themselves as big as they could) followed by I am small (getting as small as they could). It was hilarious. They must have thought I was a trip...and I forgot how much I love that look when students realize a)I can teach them a lot and b)I am borderline insane.
I think what this man is doing is really impressive and ambitious. He is in serious need of more funding (I saw his business plan and for only $12,000 USD a year they could do some amazing things for 100 kids. Currently he is attempting to run it on about $200 USD a year. Yikes!) But more than money, he is extremely dedicated to getting volunteers into the school. So here is the plea...if anyone out there wants to do something extremely rewarding for a week, or a few weeks (or longer) and can commit to teaching in the school, 1 hour a day, I know a guy in Battambang, Cambodia who wants your help. :)
Today we hopped on the back of motorbikes to be taken around through the countryside and to the killing caves of the Khmer Rouge, as well as a few temples in the area. Cambodia really has so much beauty, and such a violent and tragic past. The things that the Khmer Rouge did, just 30 years ago, are so haunting. How people can be so violent and cruel to one another is just beyond me. Tomorrow we are off to Pnohm Penh, the killing fields. Considering I couldn't face the concentration camps, I am not sure how well I will fare, but I'll keep you posted.